NAMI Club Spotlight

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With so many students in college dealing with issues such as mental illness, it is really refreshing to hear that there are people here at St. Mary’s that are willing to help. The NAMI club at SMCM provides students with a safe space where they can talk with peers that understand certain struggles, such as dealing with depression, seeking therapy, medication, media pressure, etc. It shows students that they are not alone.

So what exactly is NAMI?  NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.  The NAMI club at SMCM is led by president Taylor Foley and vice president Will Stone, two students who really do care about the wellbeing of their fellow classmates.

NAMI was started by the SMCM alum Rachel Bishop who graduated last year. She now works for NAMI and started the group on campus as a final part of her SMP. Taylor Foley told the Point News that “A typical meeting starts at 8 – 8:15 on a Thursday night.  We start out with rose-bud-thorn, where we each say the best part of the week, the part we are looking forward to, and the part that wasn’t so swell.  This just opens up the room for comfortable conversation, and also allows for some brief venting, if needed. Then we dive into the focus topic.  A usual topic of discussion can include influences of the media on perceptions of mental illnesses, stigmas on our own campus, etc. Sometimes we have yummy snacks as well. :)” Foley continued, “We usually go off on tangents and end up rattling on about a television show that negatively portrayed a mental illness, or the distasteful shirts sold at certain stores that have phrases such as ‘Eat Less’ or ‘Depression’ scrawled all over them. Meetings are typically an hour long, but sometimes we go over because we do not stop talking.”

When asked about why Taylor supports NAMI, and how it has impacted her personally, she told us that, “I support NAMI because I have suffered from depression ever since I was young. I had never had anyone else who fully understood my struggles, until Rachel Bishop introduced me to NAMI.  NAMI has made me feel more secure. Before, I thought that maybe the feelings I had experienced in the past were ridiculous. At one time I had honestly considered myself a basket-case. But NAMI has shown me that everyone has some sort of obstacle, but we are all able to overcome it.”

Will Stone also shared how NAMI has impacted him personally. I support NAMI and its efforts due to my own mental imbalance, having dealt with depression for close to a decade. It is an excellent peer support group composed of some of the kindest people on campus, and we advocate for everyone who has had their life shaped in some way by mental illness.  Our bimonthly meetings offer time to talk about our experiences in a receptive environment. While I meet with a psychiatrist about once a year, the NAMI meetings offer a tremendous complement to conventional therapy, simply by being able to discuss things honestly with people our own age who are in a similar headspace.”

If you or someone you know is dealing with mental illness, in any form, or you just want to know more about mental health in general, then NAMI might be a good option for you. You can contact NAMI vice president at whstone@smcm.edu or NAMI president Taylor Foley at tdfoley@smcm.edu. NAMI meets Thursday evenings at 8:15, twice monthly, in the Goodpaster Faculty Lounge (on the ground floor, near the campus drive main entrance).

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